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Opinion: Aquifer Alliance Urges the Public to Pay Attention to Legislative Hearings this Week

Annalisa Peace, Executive Director of the Greater Edwards Aquifer Alliance. Image courtesy of WOAI.

by Annalisa Peace
Executive Director, Greater Edwards Aquifer Alliance (GEAA)

Coming up next week are several great bills.  We hope you will take the time to tap the links provided below and register your support for the following bills by simply commenting “I support passage of xxx” in the comment section provided.

H.C.R. 65, a resolution supporting a statewide trail network for bicycling and walking, will be heard in the House Transportation Committee at 2 p.m. Tuesday, April 6.  The resolution encourages the Texas Department of Transportation to develop and support multi-use pathway network projects; that TxDoT leverage $8 to $80 million from existing federal funds designated for non-motorized uses, that the department give priority to network-focused projects (like the Great Springs Project) that include multiple municipal or county jurisdictions.

What a marvelous idea!  You can read the entire resolution here.  You can submit comments and or register support of H.C.R. 65 here.

At 8 a.m.Tuesday, April 6, the House Natural Resources Committee will consider several bills that GEAA supports:

HB 2652, by Rep. Larson establishes a groundwater and surface water advisory board to study challenges related to groundwater and surface water interactions and to make policy recommendations.  His office has told me that they requested a committee substitute to make some of the changes we recommended, like including Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) on the board, but I have not seen it yet.

HB 3619, by Rep. Bowers requires GCDs, before granting a permit, to consider whether there will be unreasonable impacts to exempt wells.  This bill protects landowners, especially the little guys who are impacted by large permit requests.

HB 2990 by Rep. Morales Shaw would require an applicant to make certain environmental and water use permit applications available online.

HB 2716 by Rep. Tracy King would restore the ability of TPWD to contest water and wastewater permits.  When the ability to contest permits was stripped from the TPWD in 2011, the agency was prohibited from contesting the wastewater permit application by Silesia Properties, LP for Honey Creek Ranch MUD in Comal County. TPWD’s Honey Creek State Natural Area (HCNA) is the only property contiguous to and immediately down gradient and downstream of Silesia’s proposed residential and commercial development. As such, TPWD is the party most impacted by this permit.

You can register to support all of these great bills here.

Also at 8 a.m. Tuesday, April 6, the House Committee on Land & Resource Management will consider one great and one awful bill.

HB 3883, the Hill Country PGMA Protection legislation, will empower county governments in the Hill Country to regulate some aspects of new development.  GEAA has advocated this for the past 15 years.  Let’s get this bill passed this session!

HB 2573 is similar to bills that GEAA helped to defeat in past sessions.  This stinker would prohibit cities from enforcing regulations on cut and fill and water quality in their ETJ’s if those regulations are stricter than state or federal regulations.

You can register your support for HB 3883 and your opposition to HB 2573 here.

We also love HB 2619 / SB 1118 , to be heard by the House Agriculture & Livestock Committee   8 a.m. Thursday, April 8. HB 2619 takes advantage of the existing network of trusted Soil and Water Conservation Districts to provide education and outreach and leverage federal funding to support farmers interested in building healthy soils, making Texas more resilient to storms, droughts, and climate change

Healthy soil management increases the productivity of the land and provides numerous benefits for the entire community: reduced runoff and flooding, greater drought resilience, carbon sequestration, and healthier food. But the initial up-front costs are a significant barrier for many farmers and ranchers.

You can register to support HB 2619 here.

Taking a half-hour or so to weigh in on sending the good bills to be voted on by the entire legislature and become law.

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